When Your Six-Year-Old Schools You About Fruits and Roots

There’s this thing about the childlike faith thing that unravels me a little bit — I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because I see my children as just a little wild, just a little spontaneous… just a little too young for me to figure out how faith like a child can get it — the grand and glorious goodness of a humble and holy God.

Does it take wisdom to take Jesus to heart?

Doesn’t it?

For all my sensibilities, I would’ve thought so.

But a little child shall lead them…

An impromptu prompting came to my mind on a homeschooling Monday morning. Our sweet little Tiger Tank safely dropped off at preschool, the Belle beside me crunching a few crumbs at the table, the Bear and I sat down to begin our day, and I laid my big Bible on the table, and turned to Galatians.

Can you read chapter 6, verse 7 for me?

I helped him find the way.

He began: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he reap.”

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We talked about the big words in this verse, and then about sowing seeds and reaping harvests. If I sow an apple seed, will an orange tree grow? No. Since the beginning, God created the world so that the seeds we sow will reap a harvest according to the seed. And if someone says I can plant these apple seeds and grow orange trees? They are deceiving me. (Or trying to.) We talked and questioned and talked a bit more.

We’ll be planting our garden soon. And we talked it out: our cucumber seeds will give us cucumber plants. Our tomato seeds will give us tomato plants.

But what other kinds of seeds can we sow?

We looked back at the adjacent page, laid open for the reading, and remembered something we talked about last year: the fruits of the Spirit. We can sow seeds of kindness. If you are kind to your brother, he is likely to be more kind to you. We can sow seeds of gentleness. We can sow seeds of patience, goodness, self-control. 

And can we sow bad seeds? And what happens if we do? What will we reap if we hurt? If we’re mean? Don’t you receive your own discipline if you hurt your brother or sister? These are different seeds that grow different fruits.

He took the concept to heart, and ran with it. It took him a moment to put it into words, but then I was so struck my jaw hung open, hearing his observation:

“The bad roots tangle the good roots and pull the good roots, and they break off the good roots so that they can’t find water.”

I hadn’t even mentioned the word “roots” — or thought about roots yet, for that matter.

Wide-eyed at his observation, wondering about his understanding, I quickly wrote down what he’d said.

Isn’t this true: There is no fruit if there is no root.

And isn’t this a truth about life? For all the good we might be attempting to sow, if we are also sowing bad seeds — we only have this one life, this one garden to plant in — and we can’t think that the one will not affect the other.

If we keep sowing seeds of anger, and we protect that plant, and allow it to flourish instead of pulling it up like the weed that it truly is — won’t that anger affect the rest of our lives? Deep underneath the soil, those roots will strangle the good things trying to take root, find water and grow.

We might find a convenient tomato cage to put around our bitterness, try to keep it to its own little corner of the garden — but those roots will stretch out under the ground in any direction they choose. And they’ll hinder the growth and flourishing of the good seeds we’re sowing. Deep under the soil, things are happening we can’t see and don’t always understand.

We discovered it quickly in our garden last year: it’s hard to grow good things. It’s easy to grow weeds.

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On the way home from a photo session that evening, the Hubs and I were chatting, and I shared about the Bear’s significant comments on that Bible verse that morning. Then a professional athlete came up in conversation who was once the premier player in his sport. He won and won and won, and changed the face of the sport he represented, and then it all came crashing down when a big bright light was shone on his personal life. A mistress, an affair, infidelity — it seemed like all the world had front row seats to watch his world, falling apart.

And we thought long and observed: the roots were all planted in the same soil. For all the care and discipline and focus and effort he showed in excelling in his sport, still the lack of care and focus and discipline in his personal life meant tangled up roots — the bad seeds he sowed in his personal life produced bad fruit, and the good fruit of his professional life was a casualty when it came time to harvest.

For all our efforts, we are still only human at the best of times. We get angry. We get bitter. We get hurt and we react.

What hope is there for any of us, who will only ever fall short?

Paul wrote about it to the Romans, {see ch. 7} his observation about how he did what he did not want to do, and did not do what he did want to do. Sin dwells in me, he wrote. Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?

I thank God — through Jesus Christ Our Lord! 

Here is the hope for all of us: Jesus, who died to sin and died for sin, so that we could be freed from sin to live a new life in Him.

Paul continued this theme in chapter 8 with the glorious news:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We know we fall short. We know we sow amiss. But the law is fulfilled for us in Him — for us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Left to our own devices, we will always only ever be a mess. But if we yield our lives to the Spirit of God, Who can dwell in us, and Whose fruit is kindness, gentleness, patience, self-control… there is hope for us still.

We can sow kindness, and reap it. Sow gentleness and receive it in return.

The gardens of our hearts will not likely be weed-free until some glad morning when we’re called to our forever home in Him… but there is hope that even in this life, we can find help to get some weeds out of our hearts, to sow good seeds, and bear good fruit.

The afternoon of our great conversation, there was a marked difference in the Bear’s behavior. He was carefully choosing to say “Yes ma’am.” To listen and immediately do what I’d asked. To be respectful and polite and to share.

You’re being such a thoughtful boy today! I thanked him and praised his efforts.

He quickly replied as if it must’ve been obvious: “I want to sow good seeds.”

xCC

Get Back Up

It’s unfortunate. It’s painful. It’s lousy. It hurts.

Life knocks you down.

You know what I mean?

The thing happens that you were praying wouldn’t.

Those words are said and they cut you so deep your heart physically hurts for a while.

He is sick or she is sick or you are sick and it is scary and it is hard and it hurts.

You’re forced to say goodbye way before you expected, and you just weren’t ready.

One way or another, one cause or another, sometimes you’re on your back, looking at the ceiling. And sometimes, you’re not even completely sure how you got there.

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At first, it hurts to be on the floor. It hurts to be down. It hurts to be laid low, and it hurts to feel it affect how you live. The light in your eyes is gone. The joie de vivre is missing. Your hope grew feathers and flew away without you.

After a while, you wonder how long you can stay down. And, sometimes, you think… maybe I should just stay down. Big dreams end with big heartache, so I’m staying small, you think. It’s not so bad laying low, being close to the ground. Less likely getting hurt down here anyway.

You’re still breathing, sure, but sometimes, you kind of stop living.

A few decades late to the punch, I devoured the Rocky films a few years ago. I loved the portrayal of the inner fight so much more than anything happening in the ring. The story (in Rocky I) of somebody who felt like a nobody pouring every ounce of himself into a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change his destiny — it was a story about heart that someone who didn’t care an ounce for boxing could still relate to.

We’ve all at some stage felt like a nobody who believed they had more inside of them to live for and to give to the world, than just this.

But the most compelling aspect of the story (for me) at nearly every turn, was watching Rocky’s decision to get back up.

When he faced a super-trained Soviet giant, (Rocky IV) and all the odds were against him, and he was outmatched in size and strength and he had nothing but his own determination to avenge the death of an old friend, he got in the ring. He took the hits that came his way, and sure, steady, consistently, he fought round after round after round, winning a crowd who began the match completely against him — simply because they were amazed by how he fought with heart. How he got back up.

What compelled him to get up again and again, what compelled him to keep going, every time he was clocked or decked or nearly knocked out?

I can only think that he kept getting back up because he still believed he had a chance at victory. He fought to win. And he always fought with everything he had in him.

We get knocked to the mat in life, too. And it can feel like we’ve got an opponent standing over us, willing us to stay down.

And the truth is, we do.

Paul warned the Corinthians — Our enemy will try to take advantage of us. We cannot afford to be ignorant of his devices. (2 Cor. 2:11)

It would suit our enemy well for us to get knocked down and to stay down.

To choose safe over brave.

To choose comfortable over purposeful.

To choose to keep breathing, but to kind of stop living.

But what a wild thought is this: could the victory be the thing that gets us off the mat?

Could hope be the thing that challenges us to forsake safe and dare to be dangerous?

And don’t we have the victory already?

It was two years ago today, when I said that hard goodbye to my Dad — a heart-heavy see you on the other side.

And I remember the haunting words of that song about Home — the ones that felt like a God-whisper:

The trouble, it might drag you down,
if you get lost, you can always be found…

And I see fresh truth: the troubles we experience in this life can literally drag us down. Pin us to the mat. Convince us it’s okay to stop living and just keep breathing.

I’ve walked that road a time or two.

We can get lost, wandering through those troubles. Grief, and hurt, and heartache — they can be winding paths that feel like labyrinths we can’t find a way out of.

Sometimes the decision not to cry anymore is also a decision not to laugh anymore. Numb is the easy route.

But friends, there is always hope. With God, nothing is impossible. Do you believe that deep down, in your soul?

When the odds seemed completely stacked against us, when the Saviour of the World was crucified, dead and laid in a tomb, when anyone who believed would’ve been sure the Light of the World had been extinguished — and when it seemed like hope was completely foolish — by the power of God, the Spirit of God brought about a Resurrection.

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“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” {Romans 8:11}

There is a power at work in us — there is a hope that we can hold onto. Because we are not just the servants of the Crucified King — we are also those who worship the Risen Lord.

There is nothing too hard for God and there is no reason for His children to live pinned to the mat.

Have you let a place in your soul give up and lay down?

Get Back Up.

Have you decided to stick with safe at the expense of stupendous, stellar, spectacular?

Get Back Up.

Is there any place in your heart that has been given to despair?  Or just quietly resigned to the fact that “this is how I’m always gonna feel, and this is how it’s always gonna be?”

Get. Back. Up.

It’s written in Black & White: If His Spirit lives in you, He can give you LIFE.

He came to give you LIFE, and give it to you MORE ABUNDANTLY.

And? He is the way, the truth, and the LIFE.

Troubles might drag you down, but if you get lost, you can ALWAYS be FOUND.

Because you can never be separated from the love of God, poured out for us in Christ Jesus.

Find yourself in Him today, and there you will find the strength — no matter what — to get back up.

xCC

 

— For Missy

The Worthless Whisper

It was bright and sunny Sunday morning. The birds were singing, the sun was bright, the kids were excited, and we were running late. The Hubs had to be in Greenville early to assist with preparations for a guest speaker, and we hoped I’d be able to arrive with the kids in order to attend the speaker’s talk before church.

We normally go to church in Washington… so the half hour distance, plus not having HH’s assistance in getting the kids ready, plus needing to go extra early, plus the Belle wanting a wee nap… basically it all combined to mean that I was so far from the possibility of getting there on time. I think I counted that after getting everyone in the car, I went back into the house approximately six times to grab one more thing before the van actually reversed out of the driveway.

I started the trek to Greenville, noisy little people in the back, me flustered at the thought of now being exceptionally late, and I prayed that the Lord would somehow help us make it on time. Yes, friends, I kind of treated God like a magic genie and I hoped that if I rubbed His lamp, a thirty minute journey would become a fifteen minute journey, and then the time-space continuum could get back to normal.

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I intended to do my part by driving as quickly as seemed reasonably possible.

Shortly after that prayer, I heard a reply from the Lord. This was especially significant because I hadn’t been a very good listener lately — if I was asking and He was answering, I probably didn’t hear it. But this was the whisper:

You need to slow down. Let it go. This isn’t a big deal.

It was something like that — you know how you hear something with your heart and it’s not necessarily a message with words, but still something you just understand? I sensed this simple encouragement from the Lord to relax, to trust that this “issue” was very small in the grand scheme of things, that it was all going to be okay.

I agreed. You’re right, Lord, I need to slow down. I purposefully slowed down the bustling mini-van and continued the journey.

I sat not-so-patiently as the next two stop lights I encountered were red and took FOREVAHEVAH. I was anxious to get scooting again, and sped up again — not to the slowed-down pace I’d been directed to by the Lord, but to the previous pace — the as quick as reasonably possible one.

I doubt they’ll be handing out any medals in heaven for half-obedience.

Not long after, flashing blue lights were behind me, and I hadn’t even made it out of Washington yet.

It turns out, the stretch of road I was driving on was a 35 mph zone, but I thought it was a 45. To my credit, there were no speed limits signs posted from the point where I turned onto the road to the point where I was pulled over, and the first sign you see, shortly after the spot where I was pulled over, is a 50. Since I was going as fast as reasonably possible — faster than 45, I was going rightmuchfasterthanreasonableina35milesperhourzone.

Needless to say, I was 1) disappointed to get a speeding ticket and 2) SO disappointed that it could have been avoided if I had just done that one little thing I encourage my kids to do all the time: listen and obey.

OUCH.

When you do something stupid like that, and you realize that you specifically, deliberately (or perhaps absentmindedly) disobeyed the Lord (the way I chose not to relax and slow down) I imagine it is completely natural for you to feel a couple of different things. One is totally frustrated and angry with yourself. Another is really sorry and disappointed at yourself. The third is just totally ashamed of yourself.

The frustration and anger tend to subside. Deep breaths. The sorrow over the mistake will hopefully lead you, like it led me, to ask for forgiveness. But there is this funny thing about shame. Shame is like a stinky wet blanket, laid thick and heavy over your soul.

The person who feels ashamed usually wants to hide. Regret and frustration and sorrow are healthy parts of the process of dealing with something you’ve done. But shame often turns the nail on its head and tries to point instead at the problem being with who you are.

I basically dealt with my own anger and frustration about the situation. I asked the Lord to forgive me for blatantly continuing on my own course of action, instead of truly listening and responding to the gentle whisper He was kind enough to give me.

But then, in relational terms, the situation was a big knock. It hurt my pride. It made me feel foolish. It bummed me out because in the States speeding tickets can negatively affect your car insurance premiums, and with the Hubs being a “legal immigrant alien” (or some similarly strange term) he has no domestic driving record, and we’ve had to be creative to avoid the super-high insurance premiums that we would have to pay to insure him to drive here. (Hence the usefulness of the Hubs driving a motorcycle.)

Godly sorrow leads to repentance and brings with it hope, and a renewed sense of thankfulness for the forgiveness that Jesus paid for. In the end, it reminds us that, while we are fallen and broken, God sees us as worthy — worthy enough that He’d send His Son to take the punishment we deserve.

Worldly sorrow, and the shame that goes with it, whispers a different message. It says: you are a mess and you’re just not really worth it. You think this about yourself but the truth is that.

I walked around for a while with my tail between my legs. Even though I’d asked for forgiveness and was confident I was forgiven, there was still this uncomfortable discontent in my heart.

I’ve recently been working my way through Beth Moore’s book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. It has been so enlightening, such a great encouragement, and it has given me so much food for thought about my faith I feel like I’m overindulging at an all-you-can-eat-buffet. In one section, she is discussing the fact that our enemy feels no remorse for kicking us when we’re down. She comments:

“Somehow we secretly hope the devil, as low as he is, surely has enough scruples to draw the line where the fight would be totally unfair. Satan has no scruples!”

Beth Moore, “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things

It feels ridiculous to admit that I’d like to assume that there are at least a few things that are too low even for the enemy of our souls. But truly — he is as low as it gets!

So after dealing with just being bummed about my disobedience, my lousy decision-making and the consequences, you’d think that was enough to deal with — but no! Satan has no scruples — and he is sure to try to kick you while you’re down!

These whispers quietly creep in, and you feel as if they’re your own thoughts:

Man. You’ve been complaining about cars speeding through your neighborhood. You should totally be ashamed, hypocrite.

Gosh. You really thought you were a lot further along in your walk with the Lord than to go and do something stupid like this. 

Cue the flustered embarrassment. Cue the I’m-so-disappointed-I-want-to-run-and-hide feelings on the inside. Cue the resulting ‘uneasiness’ that I just couldn’t put my finger on for a while.

Can I tell you the best thing to do in a situation like this? If you don’t already think I’m crazy, you might think so now.

If there’s any truth in the words the enemy is whispering, agree with them.

In Matthew 5, Jesus said “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.” {v. 25}

Here’s what this looks like in practice.

“You’re right devil. It is very hypocritical for me to complain about all the people who have been speeding through my neighborhood, and then to think I’m a special case and I ought to be able to get away with it. But you know what else is true? Every mistake I’ve ever made or ever will make is nailed to the cross. I am sometimes a hypocrite, but I am always forgiven because of JesusThe Bible says ‘Those who look to Him are radiant. Their faces are never covered with shame.’ {Ps. 34:5} so I don’t have to be ashamed of the mistakes I’ve made — when Jesus said ‘It is finished” He meant this, too!!”

And in response to the suggestion that this is an indication that I still belong in Children’s Church:

“You’re right that I did a stupid thing, devil. I should’ve listened when the Lord told me to slow down. But even Paul the Apostle said, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” {Phil 3:12} If the Apostle who was responsible for bringing the Gospel to the gentiles and was imprisoned for his faith said he didn’t have it right, there is still plenty of hope for me. I will only attain perfection when Jesus returns and makes all things new — but the Lord has brought me this far, and I most certainly intend to keep on climbing!”

The difficult thing about the whispers of our unscrupulous enemy is that they are often a mix of fiction and non-fiction. They contain just enough truth to disguise the lies that lie underneath: the whispers that question God’s goodness, or question our inheritance in Him.

Friends, are you ever discouraged that you’re just not good enough? Not smart enough? Not perfect enough in one way or another?

We can deeply embrace the truth that we all totally fall short of the incredible, impeccable example of Jesus — and since that’s the gold standard, we should not try to hold ourselves to any other standard. Because this is the life-giving truth: God knew from the beginning we’d never measure up. But He also — in some beautifully marvelous mystery — decided that we were absolutely worth it anyway.

The next time some worthless whisper comes creeping past your ear? Be quick to agree that while you may not measure up, God saw you as worthy enough to send His Son to planet Earth for you. And you really can’t get more valuable that.

 

Day 2: The Strength in Our Frailty (And the Guy at the Bank)

Day 2: The Strength in Our Frailty (And the Guy at the Bank)

Hi there! This post is the second in a 31-Day writing adventure I’m embarking on. I’d love for you to join me and read along. You can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” as each day goes live, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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If there is one thing I can pinpoint that I find most frustrating about the experience of being human, it’s humanity. Not everybody else’s humanity — it’s my own shortcomings that, metaphorically speaking, keep getting under my skin.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a rather unfortunate experience at the bank, where someone made a pretty bad judgment call about what was happening when I was being helped by the teller. He made a very hurtful comment and followed it up by not being willing to hear what I had to say in defense of the significant amount of time I took with the teller. I cried in my car… cried again when one of the tellers called to apologize while I was in the parking lot at Walmart… it basically just kind of stunk.

I shared the story just after it happened, but I haven’t yet shared the follow-up story, what happened the Monday after that fateful Friday afternoon. By the end of the incident, I knew the name of the gentleman who’d spoken so harshly to me. When I got home from my errands and shared what had happened, the Hubs was… pretty much livid.

He handled it well, but decided he wanted to do something in my defense. So, on Monday afternoon, I was busy in my kitchen when he walked in with the phone in his hand and said “Someone wants to speak with you.”

He’d contacted the guy from the bank, explained that he’d been rude to his wife, and said he owed me an apology. I answered the phone and he apologized in an “if I have offended you…” sort of way. Not really committing — if you get my drift?

I took a moment to explain what was happening at the bank that afternoon when he was waiting in line. That there were 112 checks to process. That those checks were to cover my Dad’s medical bills. That that day was the six month anniversary of his death.

And once he had the whole story? He really apologized. Through a few more tears, I encouraged him to remember that you don’t always know what is going on in other’s people’s lives, so it’s best to be careful with everyone. He agreed that that was good advice and seemed to sincerely take it to heart.

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At the end of the interaction, I was thankful I’d had the opportunity to speak with him, appreciated the apology, and was especially grateful to the amazing husband who stood in the kitchen with me, held me while I cried once more and said “You don’t deserve to be treated like that.” {Hero, more and more all the time…}

Reflecting on this incident, I see myself in the bank story — but I’m not always the protagonist. Sometimes I’m the one misjudging others, the one who doesn’t really want to hear the explanations for what I’ve already made my own judgments about. Sometimes I’m one of the other customers in line who stands there and agrees with the guy who’s getting impatient, stoking the fire instead of suggesting there’s the possibility that something else is going on there.

I say things I later regret. I do things I wish I didn’t do. And this is the frailty that makes the human experience so challenging. Our imperfections and weaknesses are an integral part of the story — we even say it, when we make mistakes:

I’m only human.

And that only human place? That is the place where God steps in with strength for our frailty.

What seems like a liability, God turns into an asset.

Paul explains it this way:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. {2 Cor. 12: 9-10}

Paul’s weakness started out as a source of frustration for him, but in God’s glorious goodness, He saw it fit to redeem those weaknesses — and turn them into a personal advantage. The more weakness we struggle with, the more we can lean on the power of God instead of trying to stand on our own {in}sufficiency.

We will make bad calls. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll make misjudgments. We might sometimes be the one that sends someone else to their minivan in tears, and not even know it.

But there is grace and forgiveness for those poor choices, and by the help of the Holy Spirit, there is the hope that we can walk the line a little better next time, that we can stay in step with the Spirit, that we can follow the example of Jesus.

Will we ever be completely comfortable in our own skin? Probably not. But that God chooses to stand with us, work through us, forgive us and use us anyway? It’s nothing short of glorious.

xCC

 

#31Days, Starting… Now

#31Days, Starting… Now

Hi there! I’m posting the links to each day on this post to make it easy for folks to find them. Please scroll down to read the #31 days series introduction!

Day 1: One Day at a Time

Day 2: The Strength in Our Frailty (And the Guy at the Bank)

Day 3: Blind Faith Sees

Day 4: On Dragons, Angels and Jesus

Day 5: You Got Spirit, Let’s Hear It

Day 6: The Declaration of Un-independence

Day 7: Fight Fear with Good

Day 8: Holy Stooping and Drama Llamas

Day 9: Lost and Found

Day 10: The Gift in Giving

Day 11: Finding Yourself

Day 12: Life’s Beautiful Brevity

Day 13: Blessed Obedience

Day 14: Joy from Ashes

Day 15: A Heads Up at Halfway

Day 16: Work Worth Waiting For

Day 17: When Less is More

Day 18: Beautiful No-Nos

Day 19: The Voice(s)

Day 20: Faith is a Team Sport

Day 21: On Entering Negative Space

Day 22: Using Your Voice

Day 23: Simple Trust

Day 24: Because You Know What They Say

Day 25: For When You Can’t Keep Going, But You Must

Day 26: Unconventional Wisdom

Day 27: Love in the Small Stuff OR Lessons from Baby Clothes

Day 28: Overlooking the Junk for the Love

I guess this story really starts about five years ago, when The Nester wrote about the same topic for 31 days. She has a fantastic blog about, well, nesting naturally, but about 3,700 other great topics fit inside of that realm, too. And five years ago, she wrote, I loved it, and I thought, “Ooh! I want to do that!” The next year, she invited eight friends to join in, and I, from far away in South Africa, read along and thought, “Ooh, I still want to do that!” and the next year, she sort of “opened it to the general public” and 746 people jumped in. I thought, “Ooh, I still want to do that!” but I think I was moving countries and had some small children or something.

Then, last year, 31 Days arrived again and I thought, “Oooooh! I still want to do that!” But I was very pregnant and certain the little one would arrive early and I was unwilling to sacrifice sleep and I had other small children and… wow, here I am making excuses again.

So, this year, I decided to bring this little challenge before the Lord and let Him make the excuses for me, because then I would feel better about having an excuse not to do something that I think would be quite good for me. I was standing in front of the washing machine, which thankfully has a window behind it which allows me to look out toward the river while I ponder how much time I actually spend on laundry each week, and wonder what the bottom of my laundry basket looks like, if it does, in fact, exist.

The conversation went like this:

“Lord, I constantly get the sense that You want me to write more, and I feel like I need to get over some internal hump and just jump brave in, and I think writing for 31 days would be a really good way to actually show myself that these books You have stirring in my heart could actually turn into something on paper if I’d be disciplined enough to do it.”

Okay, do over, I think the conversation went more like this. Although all of the above was in my head and heart at the time, so the Lord ‘got it’ without me ‘splainin.

“Lord, I feel like I should do that 31 Days thing. But I don’t know what to write about. So. If You want me to do it, will You please give me a topic?”

[Complete silence, both external and internal.]

I walk away thinking I might be off the hook.

But then. This weekend, the smalls and I travelled along with HH to a wedding a wee ways west of Winston-Salem… I don’t know if it could be classified as the mountainous section of North Carolina, but it was at least foothilly enough to be inspirational for me.

We needed the Belle to have a little morning nap in the hotel room, so HH took the boys out to play and I was there with a sleeping baby, no laundry to fold, and … silence.

So I started reading, which, for me, kind of naturally turns into writing, and then, plain as day, the Lord simply whispered a little theme to my heart, which I am pretty sure if I looked back would be a recurring theme, a bright pink thread, right straight through, from the early days when this blog still had Smiling, Avocado and Bacon in the title. And if you can remember those days, well then, leave a comment because you’re one of eleven.

To test and see if this was actually a 31-dayable topic, I quickly flipped to a clean page, jotted down the numbers 1 – 31, and promptly came up with 22 post ideas in less than 22 minutes. Perhaps even ten. Minutes that is.

And then, my friends, I was cornered. In His glorious goodness, He kept His end of the bargain… so I have to keep mine.

And for the next 31 days, heaven help me, I’ll be writing about exactly that: His glorious goodness.

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As I proceed toward the end of a year that might, for all intents and purposes seem not good, (considering the unexpected loss of my Dad this March) and as I work through a soul-challenging season where my plate seems uber-full — and not of bacon or avocado or even a slice of home-baked bread — I am somehow confident that putting this new thing on my plate, where I am actively looking in unexpected places to find ways to say He is so good, there is the significant possibility that everything else will suddenly look a heckuvalot better, or perhaps go strangely dim, which will help me to recognize how small it all is in comparison.

Part of the challenge for me will be not simply saying “He’s good because there’s Jesus and forgiveness and stuff” but actually searching for redemption in the hard, the broken, and even in the just plain ordinary. The other part of the challenge will be the discipline of getting up and writing each morning for the next 31 days.

So, quick question for you. Will you join me in a conversation about His Glorious Goodness over the next 31 days? If you are along for the ride, it will make it so much more meaningful for me. I write because when I do, you write back and tell me how much it has meant to you — and I can’t say thank you enough to you amazing people, far and wide, who have taken the time to say Thank you or That meant something to me. 

I’ve had the privilege of hearing many of your stories, and sometimes even meeting some of you, and it has been such a joy, SUCH a gift. You dear readers and social media-sharers and encouraging commenters and (I’m usually blessed and embarrassed at the same time) dear folks who put quote marks around something I’ve said, attach my name to it and pass it on… I write for you, and it is totally His glorious goodness, that He gives good gifts, and then we get to be gifts to each other, because of Him. But maybe that’s a topic for Day 17 or something?

That was a lengthy rabbit trail. Back to the subject, my apologies:

Will you join me on the #31Days adventure? You can follow along by subscribing to my blog or liking With Love, From Here’s page on Facebook or, obviously, just coming right back every day this month.

I hope so. I think it’s for me, but I’m secretly (well I guess it’s not a secret now) pretty sure this is for you, too.

Isn’t that glorious?

xCC

31DaysofHGG100{You can also follow other #31days participants by searching that hashtag at Twitter or visiting the Nester’s Link-Up Page. — I will link to it once it goes live later this evening!}

With Love for the Jerk at the Bank

It’s been a while since I gave any thought to that nice old saying, Every Person Has a Story. But a Friday afternoon incident at the bank brought it home to me again. And I thought it was a lesson worth sharing.

Here’s the backstory.

Today, on the six month anniversary of my Dad’s death, I was busy opening envelopes and recording check amounts and numbers. My Dad was a part of a ministry called Samaritan Ministries International, an alternative to traditional health care. Each month, the members of SMI send their “share” to another member who has a “need”, at the direction of the central office. I’m surprised I haven’t shared with you about this ministry already, we (the Collie family) are also members and had a great experience when the Belle was born — but it’s a topic for another day.

My Dad’s need, namely, his significant hospital bills was published by SMI this month — the significant delay related to the hospital’s delay in sending the big bill and was not the fault of SMI. This means that over the course of September, I’ll be receiving hundreds of checks in the mail, with cards and words of encouragement and prayer, and those checks will cover the hospital bills from my Dad’s final days. {I hope all this makes sense, but feel free to ask questions in the comments if it doesn’t.}

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I had about 110 checks to deposit into the Estate bank account this afternoon, and after spending a good wee while opening those envelopes, recording the details and so on, I was pretty spent, so I went to the bank and hoped it would be okay for me to not fill out a deposit slip listing each individual check.

The bank was short-staffed for a Friday afternoon, but I only waited a moment before my turn in line. I explained the backstory to the 110 checks I needed to deposit and asked if it was okay for me to not singly list out each check on a deposit slip. The teller was very happy to run them through her system for me and I was totally relieved.

At the time, she was the only teller behind the counter; another was in her office with several clients sitting across the desk from her, and the third was manning the drive through window.

I’ve been in the process of settling my Dad’s estate for about six months now. There are a heap of unusual twists and turns and loose ends, which mean I’ve made lots of trips to the bank settling different accounts, and the tellers have been very friendly, and we’ve gotten to know each other a little. While we waited for the checks to go through, she asked how my children were doing. We chatted some more, she continued the process of entering the checks, and I looked back over my checklist, trying to guess what the total was supposed to be, because, really, I hadn’t gone through and made sure everything was clear.

It was the end of a long week, my third week of homeschooling, still unpacking from our move, the anniversary of my Dad’s death… for some reason the thought of the holidays without him had been looming ahead of me all week — I was pretty much just spent.

I overheard one customer waiting in line complaining to another about the wait and specifically using a few words that made me think he might be referring to me taking a long time getting my deposit done. I decided to believe the best about the gentleman and assume he wasn’t actually referring to me.

But, as the transaction came to a close and I gathered my things to leave the desk, he commented, loud enough for the entire bank to hear:

“Are you sure you don’t want to take a little more time and make the rest of us wait a little longer?”

The loud, overbearing tone and rough and disrespectful words felt like an unexpected slap in the face. I spun around on my heels and said, “Would you like to know why that transaction took so long? I am depositing checks to pay my Dad’s hospital bills… he died…”

But before I’d said three words, even louder, even more disrespectfully he chirped “NO NO NO I don’t want to hear it.”

Maybe I spend too much time at home with my Hero Hubs and children, where no one is allowed to speak to anyone in that sort of manner. But the shock of the interaction really stung,  and I walked out muttering my regrets that the world didn’t revolve around him.

I climbed back into my van and erupted into a pile of tears. Today? Really, today?

After a few minutes {okay, maybe several} I’d managed to compose myself and I was ready to run the next errand on the list before heading home.

Deep breaths, tissues. Jesus.

By the time I pulled into a space in the parking lot at Walmart, I was upset all over again thinking about the interaction. I sat in my van for a few minutes looking over my checklist and trying to figure out why the teller said there were 112 checks when I could only count 111. I looked for my phone in my bag to open the calculator and see whether we’d still come to the same total. When I picked it up, it was vibrating.

I answered with a shaky voice, and the teller from the bank was on the other end of the line. She called to apologize for how the other customer had spoken to me.

“He’s a {occupation title removed so as not to incriminate anyone} in town, so I guess that’s just his attitude all the time.”

“It was wrong and completely uncalled for and I’m sorry.”

I was in a puddle again — just totally appreciative that she’d taken the time to call me and apologize for something that wasn’t even her fault. It is funny how having a witness to pain, having someone agree — that happened to you and it wasn’t right – somehow makes walking through something more bearable.

I thanked her for calling more than once, we wished each other a good weekend. A few more deep breaths and tissues and I was ready to let my tear-stained face into Walmart. Although I seriously considering leaving my sunglasses on, the first shopper who looked at me funny forced me to put them on top of my head.

Moments before, in the middle of that brief and heavy-hearted drive from the bank to the Walmart parking lot, I brought this care to the Lord the best way I knew how.

I was reminded of one very important thing: in every situation, Every Person Has a Story. The person who cuts you off in traffic, the Mom who just can’t devote an evening to a PTA meeting, the guy who seems totally disinterested when his kids are screaming on the bus. The girl who might look like she’s just a selfish and careless youngster taking up the teller’s time at the bank with small talk while people are waiting.

And, even the jerk at the bank who has something very unkind to say, after his patience is worn too thin at having to wait a few extra minutes before seeing a teller. Was he abused as a kid? Did he recently lose someone he loved? And perhaps has noone ever encouraged him to consider the possibility that God has a plan for his life that is so much better than being a walking, talking meaniepants?

Every Person Has a Story.

It was a fresh, timely and good reminder for me. As I hunted a space in that parking lot, I waved at the employee who looked down on his luck, standing outside and speaking with a friend. I smiled graciously when the aisles were too full and I had to navigate a sea of fellow shoppers and gently ask if people wouldn’t mind moving their carts for me to get through.

I waved another car that had just left the little Perfect Perks coffee hut in front of me so that she wouldn’t have to wait for all the cars behind me to clear in order to get moving.

I remembered one important thing: I’m not the only one who’s hurting. None of us are alone, facing a sometimes cold, often broken world. And the guy at the bank and I? We might actually have a lot in common. Perhaps we’ve both experienced a significant loss recently. Perhaps we both feel like there are more tasks on the to-do list than we can actually accomplish.

One thing is for sure. Love is the best answer for every broken question. Kindness is the best medicine to give a hurting world.

Every person has a story.

And today, even when it hurts, I’m grateful for the reminder, and I’m grateful this is mine.

xCC